Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Rochester City School Board. Mental health expert Melanie Funchess and health worker Beatriz LeBron were appointed to the board in January, following the departure of Malik Evans and Mary Adams. Now, they must run again to fill the remainder of the terms, and they have some competition. Reverend Judith Davis is also on the primary ballot.

This hour, we hear from the three candidates about their platforms and their priorities for the Rochester City School District. We discuss teacher evaluations, testing, how to address student and parent needs, and their thoughts on a number of changes proposed for the district. It's an opportunity for you to ask them your questions before the primary on September 13. In studio:

Did you take a class in high school or college that stood above the rest? One that was more fun, interesting, or unusual than the others? Maybe it was about silent film history with a live piano accompaniment, or maybe it was a wine and beer appreciation class.

School will be back in session in just a few weeks, but this hour, we go back to class a bit early to learn about some of the most interesting classes being taught in our area, including courses on witchcraft and witch hunts, the Broken Earth series, the chemistry of indulgence, and more. In studio:

  • Tom Devaney, associate professor of history at the University of Rochester
  • Margaret Kaminsky, chair of the Chemistry and Geosciences Department at Monroe Community College
  • Beth McCoy, distinguished teaching professor of English at SUNY Geneseo

A group pushing for anti-racism training in the Rochester City School District says one of the big problems with American public schools is a Euro-centric approach to teaching history. They say it’s racist and that there’s much more beyond the borders of Europe to teach.

So what do they think a non-racist approach to teaching history looks like? We discuss it with our guests:

The New York State Education Commissioner was in Rochester this week for a cultural education visit. MaryEllen Elia toured a number of the city’s cultural attractions as part of her work to bridge cultural institutions throughout the state with childhood education. During her trip, she stopped by the Need to Know studios to discuss everything from the newly-named Distinguished Educator for Rochester, the closing and re-opening of failing schools, and more. 

When she was in Rochester last month, State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said the Rochester City School District needs to do a better job mentoring new teachers. The surprised teacher-mentors from the district, who say the RCSD Career in Teaching program has provided intense mentor support to new teachers throughout the last 30 years.

We talk to teacher-mentors and new teachers in the program about their work, teacher turnover, and teaching as a career. In studio:

  • Christopher Davis, special education teacher at Roberto Clemente School #8
  • Angela Rodriguez, first grade teacher at Nathaniel Rochester Community School #3
  • Tammy Shaw, primary school teacher and CIT lead teacher-mentor
  • Stefan Cohen, program director for the Career in Teaching program, and history teacher in the Rochester City School District

We have a conversation about the challenges of bringing the arts to rural areas. Shake on the Lake is a professional Shakespeare touring company based in Silver Lake. The founders created the organization after observing the disparity in arts and cultural opportunities in rural communities. They’re one of a few local organizations that bring theater and the arts to underserved rural groups, including the prison population.

We discuss their work and how it impacts cultural and economic development in the areas they serve. Our guests:

Local leaders in education join us to share their reactions to topics we discussed with New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. In studio:

  • Van White, Rochester City School Board President
  • Adam Urbanski, Rochester Teachers Association President
  • Christopher Albrecht, fourth grade teacher at the Fred W. Hill School in Brockport, and New York State’s Teacher of the Year

New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia was in Rochester last week to learn about cultural education opportunities available to students in our area. As part of her visit, she joined us in studio to discuss her role as commissioner and the state of education in Rochester and New York State.

We discuss her decision to hire a distinguished educator for the Rochester City School District, her thoughts on teacher evaluations and standardized testing, how poverty and education intersect, Betsy DeVos, teacher shortages, and more.

What does it take to fix a troubled school system? On this edition of Need to Know, we talk with State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia about what she believes are solutions to some of the Rochester City School District’s long-standing problems.

Also on the show, how photography and technology are helping teens express activism through art. 


New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia made a number of stops in Rochester Monday and Tuesday along with members of her administration and the State Board of Regents.

Regents T. Andrew Brown and Wade Norwood, who are both from the Rochester area were involved with the visit, as was Regent Roger Tiles, who is the Chair of the board’s cultural education committee, and Mark Schaming, Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education.